A brisk autumn afternoon in Okotoks, Alberta has Kayla and Ally walking along main street. Since the two of them are artists and it is a beautiful day, they decide to walk the town to find inspiration. A warm day like this means you should be outside and if anyone knows Okotoks the way that these two women do, you would find different painted murals almost everywhere. Some are in plain sight while others are hidden. However, some of these murals have hidden secrets.
“I can’t believe it is so beautiful in November. It should not be this nice!” Ally says excitedly.
“I know.” Replies Kayla. “It is a perfect day to wander about town and come up with some ideas for the Christmas Market coming up.”
When they make it to the Okotoks Art Gallery, they start their own self-guided tour by checking out the mural behind it. This one always gives them a laugh. Painted by their good friend, Robin who is in their art group, Kayla and Ally check out his creation. It is of a dinosaur with reins and a saddle in a western theme of Okotoks. It shows a brightness, whimsy, and sense of humor that only a true artist could craft.
“What will they think of next?” Kayla asks smiling up at the giant painting.
“I don’t know but I want my picture taken with it.” Ally declares as she runs to the side of the picture. Kayla chuckles and gets her phone ready to take the portrait.
“Okay!” She calls. “Ready Ally?”
Ally puts her hand to the painting and retorts. “Ready!”
Kayla snaps the picture of her smiling friend next to the dinosaur. It is a bright and happy sight indeed.
“Alright, shall we move on?” Kayla asks as she lowers her cellphone. When she looks towards her friend, she finds that she is no longer standing there. “Ally? Where did you go?”
Kayla shakes her head and rolls her eyes. Ally is such a prankster. She does this all the time to Kayla. So any minute now, Ally is going to jump out at her or tap her on her shoulder and run away. After waiting for five minutes, Ally still hasn’t made her presence known and Kayla is beginning to worry. Ally always makes her presence known one way or another. Now it seems to Kayla that she is missing. She has to find her. But how?
Kayla decides to walk to their next stop and see if Ally somehow just ended up there. Perhaps it is a whole new joke she is playing on her. She goes to stop after stop and mural after mural. Her friend is nowhere to be found. However, when she reaches the last mural that they were supposed to see together, Ally still isn’t there. Worriedly, Kayla takes out her phone to call the police. As she dials the number, Kayla can’t help noticing that there is something strange about this last mural. This painting is of a mountainous lake surrounded by trees and wild flowers. This is probably one of the most beautiful landscapes she has ever seen. It is so life like that you would swear that you were looking out of a window instead of at a wall.
She reaches a hand to touch it and feels the cold of the brick. So, it isn’t alive. Kayla breathes out a sigh of relief at this new knowledge and prepares to remove her hand. Unfortunately, she can’t. With shock in her eyes, she finds herself stuck onto the mural. She doesn’t know how or why but her hand just won’t come off of it. Suddenly, her hand starts sinking into the picture up to her wrist. She could see the ripples flow around her arm as it slowly falls itself more and more into the mural like vertical quicksand. Before she can even scream, Kayla finds her whole self slide into the image.
Everything around her is dark. She sees nothing but feels like she is moving at superspeed with the air brushing past her whole body. There is no ground so she feels like she is falling. In an instant, all this changes. She falls onto the ground with a thud and puts a hand to her head since a dizzying feeling has taken her over. She pushes herself up and sits up against something hard like a wall. As soon as her vision clears, Kayla’s surprised by what she sees.
She is in a room, that has no color in it. In fact, it looks like she is in a well-drawn black and white sketch. It’s stunning but it is so odd that it can’t be real. Kayla puts her hand on the floor and sees how real it is. It is solid and with wiggling legs she presses her hands down to stand up. Slowly she walks around this room to see what is around her.
There is a white drawn table and chairs with black and white pumpkins sitting on the tables. They too are real. She looks at the wall to see that there are intricate picture frames with no pictures in them, a grandfather clock that is still and silent, a shelf housing some colorless indoor plants, and wall hanging candelabras with flickering lights. Not one of them has a color to them. Everything is in black and white.
Kayla sees an open door and cautiously walks through it. In this other room she sees a black shelf with many black and white cups, plates, and other small household items. She looks up at a sign to see the words bakery handwritten on it. She turns to look in front of her and sees several desserts that are every color of the rainbow sitting on the counter behind a glass divider. Immediately, she walks to it and presses her hands against the glass. She has no idea what is going on and wants some answers along with these sweet delights.
Suddenly, a woman in black and white clothing walks out of the back door carrying a tray of fruit pies. Like the pies she is carrying she is colorful despite her clothing. The woman turns to face her and a gentle smile shows on her red painted lips.
“Oh, another visitor!” She says as she walks to the counter where the rest of her desserts are sitting. “Please find a seat and take a break.”
The smell of baking fill her nostrils and her mouth begins to water. It almost makes Kayla forget what the woman has just said. “Another visitor?”
“Yes! A young woman was here about half-an-hour ago.” She says setting the tray down and carefully putting the pies on their plates. “She was a little out of sorts like you.”
Kayla looks at the woman incredulously. Is she talking about who she thinks she is talking about? “Is her name Ally?”
“Yes it is.” The woman says. “She stepped outside but hasn’t come back yet but she sure loved my cupcakes. Not that I blame her. You look a little peckish yourself. How about a sugar cookie and a blueberry cheesecake macaron?”
The beautiful colorful desserts beckoned her, she could not resist and nodded at the woman. Kayla looks down at her purse and takes out her credit card. The woman puts a hand on Kayla’s and shakes her head.
“It’s on the house honey. Don’t worry.” She says kindly.
Kayla smiles gratefully as she puts her credit card back in her purse. Where ever she is, this place is clearly not so bad. Especially when it has macarons that taste like actual blueberries and cream cheese. It is uncanny. Then there is that sugar cookie with its creamy butter cream and crumbly, buttery, vanilla cookie. It is like biting into heaven when you have been denied it for so long. She could stay here all day. In fact, if Ally is really just outside, maybe Kayla should stay here for a while and wait for her. As these two women are both foodies, she’ll come back.
After about an hour of waiting, Kayla decides that she should be going and looking for her friend. However, she does order some macarons for her journey. Taking the plastic container full of the delicious little treats, Kayla walks towards the doors that lead out of the store. Kayla gazes at her watch and looks out the door window. It looks dark outside but it is only four in the afternoon.
“Thank you for the food but I should go look for my friend.” Kayla tells the woman.
“No problem.” She counters. “Come back anytime.”
As soon as she steps out, she realizes that she can’t see anything. Everything is pitch black and she can’t even feel the ground below her feet. Alarmed, she looks back towards the store to see that yes, it is still there but on the outside of it are these black and white tombstones. This sends shivers up her spine. The names are abnormal as well including “Count Dracula” and “Clair Voyant.” The others are bare. Listening to her intuition, Kayla looks down at her macarons and sees a skull on the top of the bunch.
Now she realizes what is happening. She is trapped here and probably forever. So is Ally and she is probably more lost right now than Kayla. As she looks out to the darkness, one thought comes to her mind. The end of time. It’s a place where space and time don’t exist. It’s like purgatory after death. That’s where she is and that is where these murals are taking missing people. The only question she has now is, “What am I going to do?”
Special Thanks to:
The various mural artists of Okotoks: You all are true masters of your art. Downtown Okotoks https://www.okotoks.ca/node/15292
94 Takes the Cake: For the coolest atmosphere and even more delicious treats that one could ever come across. 94 Elma St W, Okotoks, AB T1S 1J9 https://ninetyfour.ca/